Dave Barbara has a case of “patio anxiety” these days.
As owner of Cecelia’s Ristorante on Elmwood Ave., he is anxious to open the patio, but at the same time, he knows it’s a long process that must wait until May. If it’s done properly, he will see twice the volume at the restaurant and must be prepared to handle it.
There’s no need for patrons to worry though – you can enjoy comfort food as you sip on one of Cecelia's popular martinis in the dining room with mom’s traditional recipes until patio season officially arrives.
Dave took some time to explain the patio process and share the story of Cecelia’s home-cooked style.
Question: Do most of your menu items come from family recipes?
Barbara: They are all family recipes. Everything on the menu, with a few exceptions from Chef Steve, comes from all of Mom’s recipes. The marsala, the chicken, veal, family tomato sauce, marinara, meatballs and the house specialties - those are all Italian specialties that Mom passed down to us.
Q: Did she ever work in a restaurant?
A: She cooked at home. She never had a restaurant. She passed away in June 2000. In 2001, we erected this in her name. She loved cooking so much and it was dual – we, as kids, would love it just as much.
Nothing beats waking up on a Sunday morning and smelling her sauce cooking. Her name was Cecelia.
Q: What are the best-selling menu items?
A: Banana peppers are a staple of ours. Many people say they’re the best in the city. Braciole is unique. Lasagna, meatballs, peppers - all of the house specialties are the most popular. Our pizza – we have great dough that’s handmade from scratch.
Q: How did Local Restaurant Week go for you?
A: It was super busy, almost too busy! We were in over our heads since we are going through hiring. We will double our business when the patio opens.
Q: Are you anxious to get the patio open?
A: We’re always super anxious to open. We’re a patio destination in the city so we can’t open fast enough, but it’s a unique situation with the building design.
It’s a monumental task to open with a full-service patio. We have to de-weatherize the patio and the service space. We have to get the awning up. We can’t officially open until the middle of May – that’s our target - so by Memorial Day, we'll be in full swing.
Q: How important is the patio to your business?
A: We more than double the capacity of the restaurant with the patio so we need to hire and train staff to handle that. It’s more than just opening a door and putting tables out.
We’re certainly a patio destination for the city and the Elmwood strip. It’s vital to our business and our essence. We will have our outside patio bar and lounge under the pergola, and we’re known to do live music too.
INFO: Cecelia's Ristorante, 716 Elmwood Ave., 883-8066. Dinner: Daily starting at 4:30 p.m., with brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Lunch service begins mid-May.
*Read more of Elizabeth Carey's interviews here.